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Characterizing the Community Structure of Complex Networks

Authors
Journal
PLoS ONE
1932-6203
Publisher
Public Library of Science
Publication Date
Volume
5
Issue
8
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0011976
Keywords
  • Research Article
  • Physics
  • Physics/Condensed Matter
  • Physics/Interdisciplinary Physics
Disciplines
  • Biology
  • Communication
  • Mathematics

Abstract

Background Community structure is one of the key properties of complex networks and plays a crucial role in their topology and function. While an impressive amount of work has been done on the issue of community detection, very little attention has been so far devoted to the investigation of communities in real networks. Methodology/Principal Findings We present a systematic empirical analysis of the statistical properties of communities in large information, communication, technological, biological, and social networks. We find that the mesoscopic organization of networks of the same category is remarkably similar. This is reflected in several characteristics of community structure, which can be used as “fingerprints” of specific network categories. While community size distributions are always broad, certain categories of networks consist mainly of tree-like communities, while others have denser modules. Average path lengths within communities initially grow logarithmically with community size, but the growth saturates or slows down for communities larger than a characteristic size. This behaviour is related to the presence of hubs within communities, whose roles differ across categories. Also the community embeddedness of nodes, measured in terms of the fraction of links within their communities, has a characteristic distribution for each category. Conclusions/Significance Our findings, verified by the use of two fundamentally different community detection methods, allow for a classification of real networks and pave the way to a realistic modelling of networks' evolution.

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